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UK campaigners score partial success on crucial World Bank coal vote

The UK government yesterday abstained from voting on a $3.75 billion World Bank loan to finance a massive coal power station in South Africa, which was strongly opposed by Christian Aid and other campaigners in the UK and South Africa.

The UK was expected to vote for the loan and so its abstention, while not good enough, was a better than expected result.

'It is a welcome sign of change that the UK, and other countries, challenged the loan when it came to the World Bank board,’ said Eliot Whittington, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Climate Justice. ‘This project is not designed to deliver energy to poor people in South Africa - but it will drive the climate change impacts that hurt them.

‘However, if the countries that had abstained had voted against the project, then it most likely would not have gone through. When making decisions like this in the future, the UK and other rich governments need to prioritise money for clean energy for the poor - not dirty coal power stations providing cheap electricity for big companies.'

Bishop Geoff Davies, executive director of Christian Aid’s partner organisation South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), also condemned the Medupi power station plan.

He said: ‘It is shocking that the World Bank should be knowingly financing the destruction of our atmosphere and therefore our climate system. The Word Bank should be financing renewable energy only. The amount allocated in the present loan for renewables smacks of tokenism.’ 

The Bishop, who in November won an Environmentalist of the Year award from South African brewing company SAB, added: ‘It is also shocking that our South African Government should be following this route, when there are infinitely better renewable energy options that will employ hundreds - and even thousands – more people and which private enterprise will finance. Instead we, the citizens of South Africa, are becoming indebted to the World Bank.'

The Bishop called for the Medupi plan to be scrapped: ‘The overriding consideration should not be our short term economic demands or energy needs but whether we will have a planet that will support life in the future in the manner that we know it,’ he said. 

‘Medupi should be cancelled. It would be cheaper to do that than face the escalating costs of carbon taxes and environmental destruction, particularly of our water resources, in the years ahead.  If we are to take this loan it should be used entirely for renewable energy.’

For Christian Aid, Eliot Whittington added: 'Instead of funding coal, UK ministers should ensure that the international community finds money to support a real low carbon transition, using renewable energy and sustainable technologies to meet the energy and development needs of poor communities. And they should not use the World Bank, which has yet again shown it is unfit for the task.’

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For more information, contact Rachel Baird on 0207 523 2446 or 07545 501 749 or rbaird@christian-aid.org

Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries. We act where the    need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve. 

Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of dignity, freedom and hope, of power over their own lives. Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty – and we believe that vision can become a reality. We urge you to join us. 

Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty – and we believe that vision can become a reality. We work with the world’s poorest people in around 50 countries, regardless of race or faith. We are part of ACT Alliance, the ecumenical relief and development network.

The Christian Aid name and logo are trademarks of Christian Aid. Poverty Over is a trademark of Christian Aid.